Meniscus transplantation, or placing cartilage from a cadaver donor into a patient, has become a possible treatment for patients with a specific pattern of knee pain. The ideal patient is someone who had their meniscus removed, and subsequently begins to develop knee pain. The patient is too young and too active to consider a joint replacement. Yet all the other "usual" treatments (anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, Synvisc, cortisone, joint supplements, etc...) just aren't doing the trick. The questions is, what is a reasonable treatment.
In the last decade, meniscus transplantation has become a reasonable treatment option to be considered for some patients with specific types of knee pain. The problem is, the number of patients for whom a meniscus transplant is a reasonable option is quite small. That said, if you think you may fit the criteria for considering a meniscus transplant, read on....
What is the meniscus?
The meniscus is a complex structure that provides both cushioning and stability to the knee.
- For information about the meniscus, and how it works, click here...
For this reason, orthopedic surgeons attempt to preserve the meniscus when surgically treating a torn meniscus. During surgery, only the damaged portion of the meniscus is removed, or your surgeon will perform a meniscal repair if possible. Unfortunately, despite advances in arthroscopy, not all meniscus tears are amenable to repair. In some cases, in order to best treat the damaged meniscus, the entire meniscus must be removed.
What happens when the meniscus is removed?
When the meniscus is removed, the patient is left without much of the joint cushion. Initially, this tends not to be a problem. But over time, patients often develop pain where the meniscus was removed, and they can go on to develop accelerated arthritis in that part of the knee joint.
The hope of a meniscus transplant is that by restoring the normal joint support and cushioning of the meniscus, the pain will be alleviated and the degenerative changes will slow. It is important to understand, this is the goal of meniscus surgery, and while early studies show cause for optimism, it is not known that a meniscus transplant has any effect on protecting the joint from further degeneration!
Who is a good candidate for a meniscus transplant?
- A young to middle-age patient (20-50 years old)
- Underwent prior meniscectomy (removal of meniscus)
- Normal or limited damage to the articular cartilage (bone lining) of the joint
- Symptoms consistent with the absence of a meniscus
For more information on meniscus transplant surgery, read on....